The Atlanta Falcons are set to face a significant challenge on Sunday, as they will be without their top receiver, Drake London, due to a groin injury. London, the team’s first-round pick in 2022, has been a pivotal figure in the Falcons’ offense, leading the team in targets, receptions, and yards and sharing the lead in receiving touchdowns with Bijan Robinson.
Standing at 6 feet 4 inches and weighing 213 pounds, London has consistently been a favorite target, with at least six targets in his past seven games and an impressive streak of at least five catches and over 50 yards receiving in his last four games. However, the Falcons will have to navigate this game without him.
Adding to the challenge, the Falcons are also making a quarterback switch from Desmond Ridder to Taylor Heinicke this week. It’s worth noting that it was Heinicke who threw the pass, resulting in London’s groin injury during the previous game against Tennessee. Despite London initially downplaying the severity of his injury, he did not practice throughout the week. Falcons coach Arthur Smith remains uncertain about when London will return but mentioned that the injury might not be as severe as initially feared.
With London sidelined, the Falcons will explore alternative options. They could turn to other wide receivers like Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, and newly acquired Van Jefferson, or they might consider shifting tight end Kyle Pitts to cover some of London’s routes.
Heinicke expressed confidence in his connection with Hodge and Hollins, citing their previous practice reps together, which proved beneficial in their recent game against Tennessee. However, the absence of London is undeniably a setback, though the fact that Heinicke was able to work with the potential replacements during the week, despite London’s absence, offers a glimmer of hope.
“It’s unfortunate,” Heinicke acknowledged. “Obviously, he’s a great player. But you saw what Red [Hodge] and Scotty stepped up, Van stepped up. So, I have a lot of confidence in those guys. Again, it’s unfortunate he’s not playing, but I have all the confidence in the world in those other guys.”
In addition to London, the Falcons will also be missing safety DeMarcco Hellams due to a hamstring injury and fullback Keith Smith, who is in concussion protocol.